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Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Sierra Club ads may dim Ford party

Environmentalists press automaker to boost fuel economy

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Ford

Fuming about Ford

The Sierra Club is taking Ford to task for fuel consumption in ads that state that Ford's Model T, at 25 miles per gallon, was more fuel efficient than the current Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle, which gets 16 miles per gallon. Is this a fair criticism?

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DEARBORN -- The Washington, D.C.-based Sierra Club is the latest environmental group to use Ford Motor Co.'s high-profile centennial party next week to pressure the automaker to boost the fuel economy of its cars and trucks.

Once a fan of Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr., the Sierra Club said Tuesday it will place ads in the New York Times and BusinessWeek magazine slamming the company's environmental record.

The ads -- being published to coincide with Ford's 100th anniversary June 16 -- say Ford has failed to improve the fuel efficiency of its vehicles.

After depicting technological advances in other industries, the ad says that Ford's Model T, which went 25 miles on a gallon of gasoline, was more fuel efficient than the current Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle -- which manages just 16 miles per gallon.

Two other groups, San Francisco-based Global Exchange and Rainforest Action Network, have asked the Dearborn Police Department for a permit to hold demonstrations beginning June 14 across from Ford headquarters.

The activists staged their first demonstration last Saturday in San Francisco.

Ford has become a favorite target of environmental groups in recent years. The criticism intensified earlier this year when Ford backed away from a pledge to improve the fuel economy of its SUV fleet by 25 percent over five years.

Bill Ford may also be paying the price for being outspoken about his commitment to cleaner cars and factories.

"I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't kind of hurt by (the criticism)," he told Wall Street analysts last month. "Because to be singled out, when for many years I felt I was a lone voice in the wilderness, surprised me.

"I have put a lot of myself on the line over the years for this issue and will continue to in the future. But there have been some business realities I've had to judge over the last couple years where we've had to make some choices."

The 700,000-member Sierra Club said its ads are meant to prod Ford into making fuel economy a top priority over the next century.

You can reach Mark Truby at (313) 222-2082 or mtruby@ detnews.com.


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